We have which is well used, and Handwavium is basically a technology/physics equivalent...

We have many questions that involve this physics-bending stuff, so I think there's a market for it. It would also be a handy way for questioner to indicate that Handwavium can firm part of an acceptable answer.

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    $\begingroup$ Strongly related: meta.worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/q/344/627 $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Mod Feb 28 '17 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ I see, but I'm talking about Handwavium not just a generic unspecified tag that could apply to anything at all and be open for 'too broad' questions. $\endgroup$ – user10945 Feb 28 '17 at 18:28
  • $\begingroup$ I mean, search questions for Handwavium and see how many there are... So why isn't there a tag, but there is for magic? $\endgroup$ – user10945 Feb 28 '17 at 18:30
  • $\begingroup$ I just added the comment because the discussion's related, not because it's a duplicate - it isn't. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Mod Feb 28 '17 at 18:31
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    $\begingroup$ It might help if you could write out a tag description. I'm having a hard time coming up with one that doesn't make it sound like a bad idea. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Feb 28 '17 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ Can one be an expert in Handwavium? $\endgroup$ – Draco18s no longer trusts SE May 8 '17 at 17:16

Yes. It's a bad idea. (or at least I would argue against it)

I say this mainly because handwavium is used to explain away things we aren't worried about when we are bending the laws of the real universe.

The questions themselves cannot be about the handwavium itself because it does whatever it is the author wants it to, meaning questions on the topic would by default be opinion based.

So while yes, we do talk about handwavium, the questions being asked are about things around or related to the handwavium, not the substance itself.

  • $\begingroup$ I was intending it to be used as a scoping type of tag in the same way as science-based isn't really a subject to talk about, it's a constrained tag. $\endgroup$ – user10945 Feb 28 '17 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Pᴇᴛᴇ Isn't handwavium by default the opposite of a constraint though? $\endgroup$ – James Feb 28 '17 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ Sort of. I'm meaning that using the tag allows answers to include Handwavium as opposed to staying within the realms of 'real' science. $\endgroup$ – user10945 Feb 28 '17 at 19:25
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    $\begingroup$ This idea is officially dead in the water. $\endgroup$ – user10945 Feb 28 '17 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ @James no, handwavium would not be the opposite of a constraint - it'd be a'soft constraint to exclude an appeal to magic. $\endgroup$ – Spencer Aug 5 '17 at 13:42

Not a great idea

Handwavium is "that place you dare not look" of Worldbuilding. By default it's a null value that cannot be reasoned about. If you do start reasoning about handwavium, it turns into science or magic.

Also, how would you get questions about handwavium that aren't too broad since handwavium by definition can be absolutely anything in or out of the universe?


I kinda resurrected the idea when I posted basically the same question. I don't think it should be as dead as it is.

Some of world building is pinning down discrete things. However, there's also an art to how to work around not defining things in your world, especially when they could be world-breaking. For example, many attempts to make exotic science based scenarios open the door for infinite energy because they broke the laws of physics. The really are two options here. One is to try to return to "real" physics, and the other is to try to craft the world to hide the fact that there's an issue.

To me, it's the difference between building a world and building a set. Nobody's going to build a multi-million dollar bunker for their military movie. You build a few thousand dollars worth of sets to shoot on and make it look like a multi-million dollar bunker.

As someone who spends far too long coming up with "real" physics for things, I appreciate the need to support people who are building these worlds on a budget and without a bunch of PhD's to reference. I feel like there should be some way we can support them, but it sure as heck isn't the "science-based" tag!

It might have to be less in the form of "here's the handwaving you need" and more in the form of "here's some behaviors you're going to have to watch out for when you handwave this way." A case study may be a bubble which slows time so you can move Prince of Persia style. There are some issues you want to watch out for (such as how can you see inside the bubble) which are better solved by avoiding answering them rather than trying to pin down all of the physics. We can certainly help identify those.

  • $\begingroup$ Isn't that what reality-check is all about, though? Especially if you also ask about suspension of disbelief. Maintaining internal consistency without necessarily requiring scientific accuracy. $\endgroup$ – user May 7 '17 at 13:12
  • $\begingroup$ The meaning I always gave to reality-check cam from the sentences " Asks if a given concept is realistic in a given context. Answers should say yes or no, with supporting info." What I'm thinking is "I know this isn't realistic, help me find ways to hide the unrealistic bits so that the readers never see them" $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon May 7 '17 at 15:58
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed, but IMO a [reality-check] question can just as well ask essentially "how can I make this realistic enough to maintain suspension of disbelief?". $\endgroup$ – user May 7 '17 at 19:41

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